China Knows No Sequestration, Navy Acquisition Head Warns

By Valerie Insinna

The U.S. military will be in danger of losing its asymmetric advantage should sequestration be reinstated in fiscal year 2016, the Navy’s acquisition chief warned.

"We must rid ourselves of any complacency built upon our past success, because the threat is rising," Sean Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, said April 9 at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space conference in National Harbor, Md. "China knows no sequestration in their budgets. They’re rising rapidly. So we'll need to do better, whatever our budget."

Throughout the speech, Stackley praised recent milestones of naval programs such as the first deployments of the littoral combat ship and P-8 Poseidon multi-mission aircraft and inaugural flights of unmanned aircraft such as the MQ-4C Triton and X-47B demonstrator.

All of those programs contribute to the U.S. Navy’s superiority, he said. But that could trickle away if funding is stripped from procurement and acquisition accounts through mandatory cuts.

It doesn’t matter whether you measure "numbers of ships or aircraft ... or flight hours or trained sailors and Marines, numbers of S-band radars or Tomahawks or standard missiles or signal-to-noise ratios or ordinance on target,” he said. “Whatever method you choose to count, by whatever measure you choose, if our budget is sequestered … that measure will be less — and in certain cases, much less.”

“The politics are simple,” he said. While it is Congress’ responsibility to appropriate a budget to maintain the Navy, industry and government must take it upon themselves to “do all within our power to drive down the cost of doing business, to rid our budgets of any burden that does not go directly to building seapower."

That means that the Navy must be more exact in determining what weapons systems it needs and how much it can afford to pay for them, he said. The service must also find innovative ways to use them.

The topics of affordability were hammered home by many of the Navy’s top leaders during the conference.

Although the service’s unmanned aviation and strike weapons portfolio still has a “considerable budget,” its program executive officer Rear Adm. Mathias Winter stressed that technologies must be within the Navy’s means.

"If you take one word away from this talk, affordability is paramount to ensure that we are getting the maximum effort out of the intellectual capital workforce and the maximum product and capability out of the bended metal and written code,” Winter said April 8.

Rear Adm. Mathew Klunder, chief of naval research, reiterated that it is not enough that a technology be lethal and survivable.In order to receive funding from the Office of Naval Research, it must also be low cost, he said in a speech earlier in the week.

Topics: Defense Department, DOD Budget, Procurement, Robotics, Unmanned Air Vehicles

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